Ted Sorensen on Writing JFK’s Speeches

Question: What was the process of writing a speech for JFK?

Ted Sorensen: There was no mystery to it. He and I had worked together at the end for 11 years. When you . . . Starting in the fall of 1956, we spent three, four years traveling the country together just the two of us to every one of the 50 states. And you get to know somebody, and his way of thinking, and his way of speaking pretty well when you do it day after day in all 50 states for three years or more. And so the ideas were his. The policies were his. The judgments and decisions were his. And when he expressed those decisions in the White House, it was not difficult for me having participated in the meeting to go a few steps down that hall to my office and try to reflect in words on paper the first draft of the decision he wanted to convey to the public. I’m happy to say that I usually submitted it to the President’s Chief Domestic Advisor. That was me. And I submitted it to the President’s Senior Policy Advisor and senior staff member, but that also was me. So being immodest about it, basically I only had to submit it to John F. Kennedy knowing that the policy expressed in the paper was his policy. And I wanted him to be comfortable with the words. And he changed that paper sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. Sometimes he would reject an entire paragraph. If I liked it, I might find the speech a couple of weeks later and I would try to sneak it back in. Sometimes he would recognize it when I did.

Question: What is it like to watch someone else speak what you wrote?

Ted Sorensen: It’s a great sense of satisfaction and pride. My parents were two dedicated Americans who brought me up to try to change the country and the world – try to make it a better place for all mankind. I was nobody. I was elected to nothing. But there I was able to help shape the words and even the . . . sometimes the thoughts of the leader of the free world. So to have him using words on which I had worked was, of course, a means of satisfaction and pride.

 

Recorded on: 1/30/08

 

 

 

Sorensen watched JFK deliver words he had written with great satisfaction and pride.

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

What is the ‘self’? The 3 layers of your identity.

Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.

Videos
  • Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
  • Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
  • In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
Keep reading Show less

Discovery of two giant radio galaxies hints at more to come

The newly discovered galaxies are 62x bigger than the Milky Way.

I. Heywood, University of Oxford / Rhodes University / South African Radio Astronomy Observatory / CC BY 4.0.
Surprising Science
  • Two recently discovered radio galaxies are among the largest objects in the cosmos.
  • The discovery implies that radio galaxies are more common than previously thought.
  • The discovery was made while creating a radio map of the sky with a small part of a new radio array.
Keep reading Show less

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

The secret life of maladaptive daydreaming

Daydreaming can be a pleasant pastime, but people who suffer from maladaptive daydreamers are trapped by their fantasies.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Maladaptive daydreamers can experience intricate, vivid daydreams for hours a day.
  • This addiction can result in disassociation from vital life tasks and relationships.
  • Psychologists, online communities, and social pipelines are spreading awareness and hope for many.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast